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I want to conclude with two more short pieces.
One is some notes from Clare O'Connor's portion of the talk. As I mentioned in my intro, I encourage you to listen to Clare's talk, especially for the descriptions of the conditions under which Palestinian people are forced to live. (The audio is here.) I am only paraphrasing the final portion of her talk, as it directly relates to these posts.
The second is a bit of the audience discussion that followed the talk.
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Clare O'Connor, Coalition Against Israeli Apartheid:
When we use the word "apartheid" and talk about the South African model, we are not using the analogy merely as a political tool. Apartheid is a legal system that any state may practice.
When comparing the South African apartheid regime and the present-day regime in Israel, there are some striking similarities.
- Both involved a process of settler colonialism forcing the displacement of indigenous populations, and the concentration of this population in reservations or townships.
- In both instances, the colonized community was further sub-divided into different groups with different rights.
- In both, the movements of the colonized people are strictly controlled, their lives severely restricted.
- Both regimes relied (or rely) on the use of brutal military force to repress and control that population.
- Both regimes have enjoyed the complete immunity that results from full US and European support.
There are also superficial similarities, such as both systems beginning in 1948, in both cases 87% of the land being off limits to the indigenous population, and some others. And, as Joe spoke about, there are the actual links between the two countries.
But there are considerable differences as well.
- Israel has not legislated "petty apartheid" rules against its Palestinian citizens.
- There are 1.2 million Palestinians who are Israeli citizens and can vote.
- And, perhaps most crucially, the system was not set up to facilitate a labour supply.
- However, South African visitors to Israel often observe that the use of force against the Palestinians is significantly more brutal and systematic than it was against the majority of black South Africans during the apartheid regime.
But our description of Israel as an apartheid state does not revolve around a list of similarities and differences. An apartheid state is the political and economic control of one group of people over another, indigenous population.
In other words, Clare said, it doesn't matter if the two systems line up exactly or not. No two historical situations are ever exactly parallel. The point is the larger picture.
Given what I've learned, I believe that to call Israel an apartheid state is to see with our eyes open. And to refuse to use the word is to insist on denial.
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After the talk, a woman sitting behind me commented on using the word among friends and family.
She said, in essence, "The problem that I find with using the word 'apartheid' is that it immediately divides people. People shut down. They have pride for their country, they conceive of apartheid as a horrible thing, they don't believe their country is an apartheid state, and they won't talk to you if you use the word."
There were various responses to this. But the best response, for me, was the simplest:
We're using this word because it is accurate.
It is the most accurate term to describe the situation under which the Palestinian people live.
A freedom movement does not exist to win friends and make people feel good. If some people - North American Jews, for example - cannot look at Israel this way, will the use of a different word change that? If we invent a new term to describe this system, if we call it something other than apartheid, will those same people be any more sympathetic to this cause?
And should we discontinue the use of an accurate term because some people are offended by it?
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In conclusion, in response to the accusations of anti-Semitism and "self-hating Jew" that I will be rejecting in comments, "a simple lesson: how to tell the difference between hatred of a people and criticism of a nation's policies".
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